Thursday, 1 March 2018

Personal Colour Analysis-Warm


Colour is still an obsession of mine and although I am no longer constantly blogging about my attempts to figure out my own best colour palette or find my seasonal palette category, the subject still interests me.  I would enjoy being a personal colour analyst but there is no market for it where I live and given that I cannot justify the cost both to my bank account and my health as I would have to travel away from home for an intensive weeks-long training.  I don’t have the appropriate home set-up for a studio either.  So, it remains an interest, a bit of a fantasy in the same way I once had a fantasy about being a garden designer.  While I had essentially arrived at a good understanding of what colours suited me best and were most flattering, I really wanted to experience an analysis and came close to spending the money, time and effort but decided against it.  There is a 12 Tones analyst in Vancouver but by the time I travelled, paid for accommodation and the analysis it would be a very expensive endeavour just for fun. 

I am very certain that an analyst would decide I am either a True/Warm Spring or a True/Warm Autumn and the latter is more likely.  I am also fairly certain I would be slightly dissatisfied either way because that is the state I had already reached on my own.  I know my best colours are purely warm.  Soft Autumn is almost good, but Soft Autumn as it is given in most systems is not purely warm and something seems a little lacking.  Some of the colours in the palette are just too cool, such as the blues, mauves and rose colours.  The warmer colours are too greyed.  I own a swatch fan and have experimented with the colours, which is a slightly different experience from getting an idea from online images such as those found on Pinterest.

Why Pinterest Will Confuse You

Pinterest is a great resource but also a source of potential confusion.  Just because someone else pins something and labels it a particular season does not mean that is correct.  I see many images pinned as Soft Autumn but the colours are warm and soft because they are de-saturated or faded looking, and perhaps these colours will work for some people who are in the Soft Autumn category but the actual category as created by Sci-Art and continued in other 12 Tone systems has colours that are softened by adding grey to them.  Grey not only softens but it cools colours slightly.  Soft Autumn is one of the neutral categories, which are neither purely warm or cool but influenced by both, leaning slightly in one direction. 

We can’t be certain of colour accuracy in the way our computer monitors represent images, or in the original graphics that were used.  Many of the palettes pinned or shown on the internet as examples of seasonal systems are only able to give a guideline as to what the palette is actually like.  I have purchased several swatch fans at this point and I know for a fact that the palette images I see on Pinterest often look more muted than they actually are.  True Spring as often depicted in images is a perfect seeming palette for me, but the actual colours as shown in the swatch fan are brighter than I am comfortable with, except sometimes in summer and I am not certain they are great on me.  Not terrible, possibly someone who favours bright colours would steer me towards them.

What Happened Since I Stopped Blogging about Colour Analysis?

As I played with trying on clothing that I matched to both Spring and Autumn colour fans (keeping in mind that the fans are a guideline and when shopping it’s also appropriate to look for colours that seem to go with the palette and thus there are more options than the 60 colours given on a fan)  it seemed that about half of the Spring palette seemed good for me and about three quarters of the Autumn palette did.  Autumn could get too dark and Spring could get too bright.  I know that after a colour analysis an individual will receive personalised tips on which colours are her personal best, which ones will work but are better as part of a pattern or worn in smaller doses, away from the face or used in shoes and handbags.  I figured that I would probably be identified as a True Autumn but told to only use the darkest colours sparingly.  I also know that in an analysis one might be told which other palettes are second best or can be borrowed from.  In an analysis the first step is to find the ideal palette, but the reality of shopping is that we make compromises and many colours will work for more than one palette, will look appropriate when situated amongst other colours of the palette, and that it’s a bit like horseshoes,  close enough is usually going to work out just fine. 

Some analysts have stated that nobody is ever almost as good in Spring as in Autumn or vice versa, that if the person is one of those palettes the other one will not be a good choice.  This didn’t make sense to me as both palettes are purely warm and pure warmth seems to be my most important requirement.  These analysts may be incorrect, perhaps they just have not encountered such a person yet, but whatever the truth is I was certain that I couldn’t decide if I was Spring or Autumn and what confused me most was that while there is such a thing as too bright for me there is also such a thing as too toned or shaded, as in too much grey or black added to the colour.  In some things there are no exact answers but when there are I want to know them.  I needed to reach a conclusion about whether or not there was a correct answer in this case and so I was obsessed with it.

 I have always suspected that people do not all see colour in the same way and given that we would not all see the same colours in each other or agree on how we and others look wearing certain colours, and given that preferences will always intervene, making it difficult to determine if there are objective measurements for the colours we see and how they compliment other colours, this is a challenging subject.  I do think it is possible to wear colours that are unflattering and I do not think that confidence or happiness makes any colour look good on anyone.  But I do think that not giving a damn is fine.  I also think that changing your hair colour and wearing makeup can allow for a different set of colours than you might normally wear.  Personally, I don’t want to have to wear makeup or depend on dyed hair to make certain colours work for me.  I definitely believe that we all have our own set of colour characteristics, our degree of warmth or coolness, our chroma being somehwere on a scale of soft to bright, our overall value level being light, medium, dark and with variations in contrast level regarding those values.  I also agree with the idea that we look our best wearing colours that harmonise with those qualities.  Many years ago, when I was going in entirely the wrong direction and wearing cool colours, I had the idea that what we should be aiming for was contrast. 

Contrast is not the right idea except in so far as we do want to match our own level of contrast in value.  If your natural appearance has a wide light to dark range, you have a high contrast look to your appearance and so repeating that in clothing is flattering.  If your colouring is very similar in value, skin, hair, eyes, all close in value then you repeat that look in clothing.  Harmony is the goal, otherwise we are setting up a clash of colours.

Many people misunderstand colour clashes and clashing colours are often not what people think they are.  I have noticed that many people think any colour combination they do not personally like is a clash but clashing colours has more to do with a lac of harmony, two colours with qualities (chroma, value, coolness/warmth level) that are not the same.  In particularly, most people do not enjoy warm colours mixed with cool ones, and by this I do not mean the yellow side of the colour wheel combined with the blue side.  I know I have written about this and should not repeat myself.  In general, the colours we call warm are those with a high proportion of yellow or gold in their mix.  The terms warm and cool are a bit subjective and people tend not to be consistent in what they identify as warm or cool.  Mixing a muted (greyed) colour with a bright often reads as a clash.  Mixing a blue-based colour with a yellow-based colour also usually reads as a clash.  Mix a bright yellow based with a muted blue-based and we really balk. 

Sometimes people enjoy clashes in some contexts but if we put them on our bodies, if our clothes clash with our faces the effect is usually not flattering.  Either your clothing looks drab and boring or your face does.  Most people don’t want either of those effects.

So, I am still convinced that we all have a palette of best colour options based on a set of qualities which best harmonise with our own appearance.  Some of us figure it out well enough on our own and some don’t.  I got myself to the point of knowing that warmth was the most important thing but I was stuck on the mantra of the seasonal systems that all three colour qualities were important to match.  I am no longer so certain of that.

I had an online colour analysis done.  It was not comprehensive by any means, and done by using photos which can be problematic.  I already knew from my own experience and frustrations with photos not showing colour accurately that colour analysis from photos could be difficult.  I also knew that some analysts insist it cannot be done accurately because the point is to see the changes colour makes in a person’s face. 

Here is what I think...

I think that some people see colour better than others, see harmony or discord, see the subtleties of colour composition.  I think that some people use markers to help them see, so that comparing how one colour makes dark shadows appear under the eyes or turns someone’s face sickly yellow and another makes wrinkles appear to vanish and a healthy glow appear, allows this colour harmony to be identified.  Some people just see it right away, others need some benchmarks.  I also think there are some people who just don’t really see this sort of thing much if at all with or without training.  So, based on this I think that there are some analysts who are better than others, both those who do analysis from photos and those who do analysis in person.  There will also be errors sometimes in any case.  Humans are involved so this is a given.  And there will be some subjectivity.  I suspect some people are better at setting aside personal biases than others, but some analysts will favour brights or muted colours and be more inclined to see those as flattering.

I have sometimes seen a person wearing a colour I’ve never particularly liked and thought WOW.  This kind of response, seeing others looking good, is often what leads us to purchase makeup or choose a hair colour that doesn’t work very well on us but we loved it on a friend or a celebrity. 


Oh how I digress...

I had an online colour analysis done.  I rounded up photos taken in natural lighting, representing my appearance as best I could according to what I believe to me real.  Photos taken close up in outdoor lighting.  Photos taken near windows.  I submitted photos that look similar to what I see in my mirror, though I did worry that in bright sunlight I can look like a redhead and I am not.  I have reddish brown hair only just beginning to get some ashy tints due to greying.  I have medium-fair golden skin that freckles in summer.  I have light eyes that were once more of an olive green and are fading to a greyed teal-blue.  I have more contrast in winter than in summer and seem able to pull off brighter colours in summer though that may just be personal preference.  My best colours discovered through much experimentation are a medium in value, warm with yellow or golden undertones and not too dark or too bright.  Golden olive green, peach, salmon, teal-blue, cream and golden browns are my best colours.  Rusty oranges and various yellow-greens also look pretty good.  This is all the information I gave the analyst.  She is, of course, completely free to ignore my beliefs about my best colours but since she was doing my analysis for free, I don’t believe she had any reason to feel a need to tell me what she thought I wanted to hear.

If she had told me I was way off I doubt I would have accepted that.  I was quite certain that I was either a True Autumn or a True Spring and I just wanted to know which.  Her method of analysis involved using colour flags, stripes of colours grouped according to their properties and representing different categories.  Many colour analysis systems use them and they are a quick method.  Instead of an hours long analysis testing many individual colours, it’s a quick and dirty approach, testing which set of colours look in harmony with the face.  My results were Warm Autumn and I received a lengthy e-mail explaining the reasons for the choice, outlining what she though were my best colours and why. 

Warm Autumn is sometimes an alternative name for True Autumn in the 12 Tone systems but in this 16 Tone system it’s slightly different.  It is, in fact, a kind of Autumn/Spring blend which made a lot of sense given my feeling that both palettes almost worked for me but each had drawbacks.  Warm Autumn is more like True Autumn but doesn’t have colours which get as dark or muted by grey and it does have some of the Spring colours.  It is based on the person being purely warm and very medium in colouring but not having a really obvious need for either clear colours or muted ones.  I can do some of each.  Given this result I remembered two places where I had encountered this idea before.

The Kettlewell Colours website used to outline a 16 season palette including a Warm Autumn that is separate from True Autumn, Deep Autumn and Soft Autumn. A recent check of their website suggests that the Kettlewell site is no longer showing these palettes and explaining the categories. They now have this offering for people who have been analysed according to a warm tonal concept instead of a season. Another British website-Style Yourself Confident- belonging to a personal stylist named Pamela explains how people fit either into the four seasons or six tonal palettes.  I don’t agree with what she says about the 12 or 16 season systems; I think she misrepresents them or misunderstands them, but where I was once uncertain about the tonal system palettes being adequate, I now find that one of them is a good fit for me.  

The Warm palette is neither Spring nor Autumn as they are represented in the 4 season systems (there are many reasons why the 4 season system is inadequate for most people and some think that 12 or 16 seasons are the solution while others posit the tonal palettes).  The Warm palette offers colours that are medium in value, purely warm and allows a pick and mix approach in a sense, colours that the 12 season system might divide between True Spring and True Autumn are options though it’s not exactly just the two palettes merged.  


Essentially, knowing that my best direction is just purely warm, medium, not too bright and not too dark/shaded, this Warm designation makes sense to me. I have studied palette fans enough to really have a strong sense of what colours work, I know what to avoid and what compromises I can make.  I also know my preference is mainly for earthy colours with a bit of peach, teal-turquoise or leaf green tossed in at times.  Ivory is pretty good but cream is even better.  Warm pinks are okay but the more peach or salmon it gets the better.  Warm and medium is my mantra and I am freed from worrying about what the damn palette is called and with trying to make one fit me.

That is the trap a perfectionist will fall into.  I have earned the wisdom to know perfectionism is not my friend but I’m not free of it.  I cope with it and I frequently remind myself to let go of it, toss it away.  It’s very difficult to say 'this is good enough’ because I always want to make things better.  That’s not a bad thing, but sometimes it’s time to say ‘okay, that’s good enough.’  So the Warm palette is good enough for me.  I don’t love every colour in it.  I won’t wear every colour but there are so many of them that doesn’t matter.  I know what I like and what suits me best.  I understand what the common qualities of my best colours are and which qualities don’t matter as much. 

So, there it is.  That is where my personal colour journey ended and why I thought I no longer had anything to blog about.  The exploring and experimenting ended and with that I doubted that I would have any blog readers left.  While I often thought surely I must be boring people to death with this obsession, it did seem to be the topic that drew readers.  I’m still obsessed with colour though, with colour properties, combinations and with personal colour analysis, so I am sure it will pop up as a blog topic again.  The biggest lesson I’ve learned may have been to trust my instincts.  I have always loved earth tones and what I call sunset colours the best.  Sure I love all sorts of colours, but the ones that really make my heart sing are the ones I look best wearing.  I think that is true of many of us, though not of all of you people wearing black.  Sorry.  I do too much intellectualising and not enough trusting my gut.  Am I a changed woman?  Probably not.  But...maybe just a little bit.


  1. Is black a colour?...
    So glad you had your instincts confirmed. Now to apply the trusting instincts to other parts of our lives.
    Interesting findings about the borderline categories. I'll have a look at your links.
    I was out today in my mustard pants with peach, black and white check shirt, faded red hat and orange bag. I was a sunset walking!
    xo Jazzy Jack

  2. It depends on whether you want to talk about colour as light or colour as pigments ( though of course the way we see pigments is all down to light...) but for personal colour analysis purposes black is a colour. It probably works for you, it would make a connection with your colouring in some way. Plenty of people default to black or believe it works on everyone and it definitely doesn't do everyone any justice. :-) A walking sunset sounds good to me! I am only just beginning to wear sunset colours myself but I always planted those colours in my garden. Rhododendrons, roses, daylilies...I would always choose yellows, peaches and soft oranges and even better if the flower was a blend of those! xo

  3. When I was younger, I was attracted to all kinds of colour, especially vibrant ones and I just enjoyed wearing different colours, clashing colour schemes and mixing it all. I think that now I'm ready to learn a bit more about colour theory and to explore what works for me. I typically choose colours that I like and wear those, I don't necessarily pay attention to what works for me best. I might work on that a bit more.

    I remember reading about your colour journey on your old blog and there was this top in a shade of pink that looked amazing on you ( I think it was salmon pink), it just made your face lighten up.

    I remember that I used to do some kind of colour tests in magazines and I think I always ended up being an Autumn type. Ages ago, I remember finding articles about it, but they all seemed to believe that there are only 4 types: Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer. There weren't very detailed classifications, they didn't pay attention to tones, just colours, so I lost interest quickly.

    I see that colour theory has really evolved. It is a fascinating field and I see you have studied it in detail. I might read more about it myself. I really payed attention to the tones and colours when I was decorating our new home.

    When it comes to virtual projection of images, be it our laptop, cellphone or TV, colours are often not what they seem to be. I suppose that is why I visiting exhibitions, I feel like one can never judge a painting without seeing it in person.

    I tend not to believe the Internet, because I know colours can never be displayed completely accurately on the screen. In addition, people often label colours according to preference or habit. I do it too sometimes, even if I should know better. Every year when some shade becomes very trendy, suddenly all clothes are labelled as that shade when in fact they are probably just the same shade.

    I don't worry about it much for blog purposes ( I'm not good at editing anyway), I only notice if photographs are true to original colour or not and sometimes I comment on it. I pretty good at remembering colours and shades I like, but I'm not very organized when it comes to my wardrobe. I don't have the habit of analyzing colours I wear according to what might work on me best or even on what works best together in an outfit as such...maybe I should think about that more.

    I'm usually pretty good at predicting how some colour will look under different lighting, though when we were choosing tiles, stone and other things for our new home, I would take them out of the store to make sure what they looked like in direct sunlight. I felt like it is better not to take chances when you will have to look at it forever. I'm also pretty good at mixing colours together when painting, I usually get the tone I want without too much trouble. I should really look into this colour theory and apply it to my wardrobe choices.

    1. There is an abundance of information online, both for art colour theory and for personal colour and of course there are disagreements and conflicting opinions. Colour is at least somewhat subjective and calling colours warm or cool is bound to cause some problems. If I were helping you colour analyse yourself I would look at the Deep Autumn and Deep Winter palettes in the seasonal systems but also at the tonal system with the Deep palette that includes both 'warm' and 'cool' colours. I would guess deep colours with some clearness. :-)

    2. I will look up those. I suppose that trying on clothes and really paying attention, trying to see what colour looks good on us is a pretty basic approach but it might work well.


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